D R I V E R L E S S E A R T H
Autonomous Fire Trucks could be next on the horizon.
With global temperatures increasing each year and forest fires breaking out earlier and earlier in the 'fire season', it's quite possible that some creative thinking will be needed to fight the growing threat. Imagine a raging forest fire with temperatures over 1000 degrees, and moving at 20 miles and hour, then imagine being a human being trying to put it out. Now imagine a driverless Fire Truck loaded with water or fire retardant that could be remotely piloted, or maybe operated fully autonomously at the very center of the danger zone. A whole fleet of them equipped with off-road capabilities could tackle big fires before they move into populated areas. All with no risk to the Fire Fighters.
The more you think about it, the more autonomous trucks and vehicles make sense in a growing number of industries. We have the technology. Let's go!
The Weekly Autonomous Vehicle Magazine
Issue 016 May 6th, 2016
by Paul Wynne
Driverless trucks go underground.
This week Volvo announced plans to take their already successful autonomous trucks underground in an attempt to bring Volvo levels of safety to the mining industry.
“We are delighted to have already developed a solution that we believe will ultimately revolutionize the mining industry,”
Torbjörn Holmström, the chief technology officer of Volvo’s truck group, said on Monday.
“We expect to be able to significantly increase our customers’ productivity while at the same time improving fuel efficiency and safety.”
The dangers of mining are well known worldwide, with mining disasters grabbing headlines year-in, year-out. The most notable being the Chilean Mining Disaster in 2010 (the Copiapo), which happened in an already troubled 121 year-old Copper-Gold mine, when 33 miners were trapped underground for 69 days. The event was so dramatic it was turned into a Hollywood movie called, "Los 33", starring Antonio Banderas.
It's this kind of drama and tragedy that Volvo aims to bring an end to with its convertible autonomous truck. The truck travels a preprogrammed route with no human oversight, using sensors and GPS to navigate around fixed and movable obstacles and communicating data it gathers to a transport system hub.
The trucks themselves will have a drivers seat and controls for manual operation when needed, but the autonomous controls will be fitted for operation from the mine surface.
The 'system' is the real thing Volvo seems to be selling, rather than the trucks. In theory, a commercially viable product wouldn’t be the vehicle itself but a network that controls a fleet of vehicles that work in tandem, much like the 'Platoon' of trucks they tested earlier this year in Europe.
Volvo has already delivered 30 Autonomous Trucks to an Australian mining company.
“It’s a shifting and upgrading of skills; we’re moving from primitive work to advanced work,” Philip Kirchlechner, who spent years in the iron mining industry, told Australia’s ABC “By eliminating those mundane, often dangerous jobs, you create safer and more sophisticated jobs.”
Indeed this could be the start of replacing many vehicles with driverless tech. The US Military has been experimenting with autonomous vehicles for years in an attempt to cut casualties in the theater of war.